Breed breakdown: An in-depth look at the Siberian husky
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Snow, sleds, and lots of fur: three common things people think of regarding the Siberian husky. Siberian huskies, or commonly just huskies, are medium-sized, energetic dogs and are 12th in popularity of dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club.
Some describe huskies as friendly and gentle. Others may say loyal, outgoing, and mischievous. However described, these sled dogs stay true to their history and love to run.
The Siberian husky was developed in Russia by the hunter-gatherer people and has been around for centuries. Early huskies were bred only for working ability and varied in appearance. One thing they all had in common was their thick, dense coat for harsh winters. Their coats can protect them to minus 76 degrees.
The Siberian husky was brought to Alaska via the Bering Strait in 1909 by fur trader William Goosak. Goosak entered these dogs in sled races and was ridiculed for his small dogs. The laughing stopped when the huskies showed their speed, strength, and endurance. Huskies continued to impress in racing and made themselves known in the “Serum Run” in 1925, bringing lifesaving medicine when diphtheria hit Alaska. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race follows the route, and the movie “Balto” honors the leader.
A big name in Siberian husky history is Leonhard Seppala. Seppala traveled wide and far with his huskies and brought uniformity to the breed. With Seppala’s hard work in standardization, the husky was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930.
Siberian huskies are recognizable by their look. Many coat patterns are permitted, and lots have an outlining mask. Huskies can come in various colors, including black, white, red, and gray. Some huskies have brown eyes, some have light blue eyes, and some have one of each color.
Huskies are not only beautiful, but they are relatively healthy. Being medium-sized, huskies have fewer issues with hip and elbow dysplasia than larger dogs, which is a good thing with their high activity level.
Siberian huskies can have genetic eye disorders, such as juvenile cataracts or corneal dystrophy. They may also be prone to glaucoma.
Huskies can develop skin issues secondary to hypothyroidism or zinc-responsive dermatosis, a crusting of the skin that responds to carefully prescribed amounts of zinc.
Racing huskies are prone to stomach ulcers, especially with their specialized diets and activity in races. They can also have respiratory issues such as bronchitis or asthma.
Siberian huskies can be wonderful dogs, but these active beauties are not for everyone. Researching kennels and parentage will help you find a healthy friend, but preparing your house, yard, and exercise regime will help you have a happy friend as well. As always, reputable breeders, humane societies, and kennel clubs are great resources to find a wonderful pet.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.